Obviously, not on the same pace as last year, when I read 49 books. But these two were good:
#13: The 27th Kingdom by Alice Thomas Ellis. This is a very quirky book. Maybe a fable, something of a fairy tale? It's the story of Aunt Irene, who lives in a tiny house in 1950's Chelsea with her evil nephew Kyril. Her sister, the Mother Superior of a order of nuns in Wales, sends her the West Indian postulant, Valentine. Valentine has manifested some miraculous gifts (most spectacularly levitation) and Mother thinks it would be best to get her out of the convent for awhile. The adventures that befall these three, and the others who are involved in their lives make it a tale of "good and evil, angels and demons." It was one of those books that I thought was OK while I was reading it, but has become more than that since then. Random thoughts and images keep returning to my head from the book. My second rating of it would be "better than OK." I would quote something to you from it, but I have passed the book along to another bibliofiend friend, so I can't. You'll just have to read it yourself if you're interested.
#14: Mr. Blue by Myles Connolly. This is part of the Loyola Classics Series. They are reissuing "classic Catholic novels", and have started with In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden, Helena by Evelyn Waugh, and Mr. Blue. They have released Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up? by John R. Powers this month, and then next month Saint Francis by Nikos Kazantzakis. General editor for the series? Amy Welborn!
Mr. Blue is the story of a young man, in 1920's New York and Boston, who has decided to live out the Christian life in a radical manner. He is a sort of St. Francis of Assisi for modern times--with a dedication to Lady Poverty and a commitment to live with and serve the poor.
The narrator is some sort of businessman--the counterpoint to Blue. He is fascinated by Blue, and even recognizes that much of what Blue says is true and worthy of imitation. But it makes him uncomfortable. After all, aren't we to plan for our futures, bank up some security, maximize our wealth???? The best thing about the book, to me, was this constant undercurrent between what we might feel drawn to and what we will allow ourselves to do. We are all drawn to sanctity, but we cover it up with layers of ordinariness and worry. Of course Blue is a nutcase. Isn't he? Isn't he? WE are the sane ones. Aren't we?
His eyes were glowing in the dark. He threw his hands up toward the stars: "My hands, my feet, my poor little brain, my eyes, my ears, all matter more than the whole sweep of these constellations!" he burst out. "God himself, the God to whom this whole universe-specked display is as nothing, God himself had hands like mine and feet like mine, and eyes, and brain, and ears! . . ." He looked at me intently. "Without Christ we would be little more than bacteria breeding on a pebble in space or glints of ideas in a whirling void of abstractions. Because of him, I can stand here out under this cold immensity and know that my infinitesimal pulse-beats and acts and thoughts are of more importance than this whole show of a universe. Only for him, I would be crushed beneath the weight of all these worlds. Only for him, I would tumble dazed into the gaping chasms of space and time. Only for him, I would be confounded before the awful fertility and intricacy of all life. Only for him, I would be the merest of animalcules crawling on the merest of motes in a frigid infinity." He turned away from me, turned toward the spread of night behind the parapet. "But behold," he said, his voice rising with exultancy, "behold! God wept and laughed and dined and wined and suffered and died even as you and I. Blah for the immensity of space! Blah for those who would have me a microcosm in the meaningless tangle of an endless evolution! I'm no microcosm. I, too, am a Son of God!"